BETTY RULES, at Lakeshore Theater, and SCHADENFREUDE, at Lakeshore Theater. This song-peppered self-chronicle of the career of small-time girl band Betty may be the most self-indulgent show I've ever seen. Though it plays like a deadpan Behind the Music parody, writer-performers Alyson Palmer and Amy and Elizabeth Ziff don't seem to realize that their story--a mild saga of backstage squabbles and music-biz vicissitudes--just isn't very interesting. Betty's hard-rock-tinged, harmony-driven music is fine as far as forthright fare goes. Palmer and the Ziff sisters are talented actors as well as singers and musicians, as their impersonations of incidental characters attest. But these pointless recurring bits, a scripted "encore," and some painfully misplaced onstage mourning make it clear who this show is really for--and it ain't the audience.
Fridays at 11 on the same stage, Chicago-fringe royalty (and weekly WBEZ presence) Schadenfreude returns with a drum-tight sketch-comedy revue. No one this side of The Daily Show does topical satire better than these guys. As writers, they masterfully tease out the latent hilarities of our modern cultural swirl. As actors, they bring reality and professional polish to even the flimsiest scenarios--and their collective rhythm is close to perfect. This show's highlights include a Rogers Park protest-music send-up starring a singer somewhat mismatched with the scene, a mutually disappointed couple whose feud devolves into utter lunacy, a sharply observed study in the aggrieved poetics of aldermanic oratory, and a high-energy pantomime that reduces the mess in the federal executive branch to a brutally simple rebus.